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Lately it seems like you can't pick up a new work of fiction without some character crawling out of the grave or casting a spell. Authors we used call "serious" and "literary" — shorthand for writers who wrote realism — are suddenly writing about the magical and supernatural. Colson Whitehead has a zombie novel coming out next month. Tom Perotta, who wrote the suburban story Little Children, has a new novel about life on earth after a Rapture-like miracle. And there are many more on the way.
These writers are bringing literary ambition to genres that were once considered lowbrow. So is old fashioned fiction on the way out?
Lev Grossman is a book critic and literary novelist. But his big breakthrough came two years ago with The Magicians, a novel about a young wizard. The sequel, The Magician King, just came out and is already a bestseller.
But Grossman says making the transition from “serious” to genre fiction wasn’t easy. “I had to come out to myself as a fantasy writer, at the advanced age of 35,” he tells Kurt Andersen. “It was a transformative moment — and not unpainful.”
Listen to full piece here.
Novelist ditches publisher at book launch for 'condescending' treatment
Novelist Polly Courtney has dropped her publisher HarperCollins for giving her books "condescending and fluffy" covers aimed at the chick lit market.
From Infodocket, news of the passing of Michael Hart, creator of Project Gutenberg.
Here are two passages from an obituary written by Greg Newby:
Michael S. Hart left a major mark on the world. The invention of eBooks was not simply a technological innovation or precursor to the modern information environment. A more correct understanding is that eBooks are an efficient and effective way of unlimited free distribution of literature. Access to eBooks can thus provide opportunity for increased literacy. Literacy, the ideas contained in literature, creates opportunity.
In July 2011, Michael wrote these words, which summarize his goals and his lasting legacy: “One thing about eBooks that most people haven’t thought much is that eBooks are the very first thing that we’re all able to have as much as we want other than air. Think about that for a moment and you realize we are in the right job.”
From the New York Times article entitled "Of Bugs and Books", author Ann Patchett (State of Wonder) speaks about books, ebooks, bookstores, best-sellers, reading habits, author appearances, cicadas (the bug part) and so on:
"Everything cycles back around. Things I didn’t think could ever make a comeback — Newt Gingrich and platform shoes — proved capable of startling resurgence. Now when someone tells me a trend is dead, I think, no, probably just dormant.
Take bookstores, for example. With the demise of the Borders chain and the shaky footing of Barnes and Noble, one might be tempted to write off the whole business. But as one who spent her summer on a book tour, I would like to offer this firsthand report from the front lines: Americans are still reading books. Night after night after night I showed up in a different bookstore and people were there with their hardbacks. Sure, I signed a couple of iPad covers, Kindle covers. I’ve got no problem with that. But just because some people like their e-readers doesn’t mean we should sweep all the remaining paperbacks in a pile and strike a match. Maybe bookstores are no longer 30,000 square feet, but they are selling books. "
Patchett and her business partner, Karen Hayes, and will open the doors to Parnassus Books in her hometown of Nashville in October.
Are books dead, and can authors survive?
At the Edinburgh international book festival this weekend, Ewan Morrison set out his bleak vision of a publishing industry in terminal decline. Here's a shortened version of his argument
There is a piece on NPR about Penn Jillette's new book God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales
Excerpt from NPR piece that mentions libraries:
His discussion of libertarianism is similar: He doesn't believe government has the right to do anything you wouldn't enforce at gunpoint, so (for instance) stopping crime is a legitimate government function, but public libraries are not, since he wouldn't hold a gun on anyone and force them to create a library. Again, some will agree and some won't, but his commitment to this principle is at least something he's prepared to defend.
An employee of the Mark Twain House and Museum in West Hartford, Conn., has admitted in court to embezzling $1 million from the organization that maintains the author's historic home. The Mark Twain House, like the homes of some of America's other best-known writers, has faced financial difficulties. Most, however, were not systematically plundered. Report from LA Times Jacket Copy.
Longtime (and now former) staffer Donna Gregory regularly raided the organization's coffers for eight years; she pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return, Reuters reports.
According to court documents, Gregory submitted false information over the Internet to the Mark Twain House payroll vendor between 2002 and 2010. The misinformation allowed additional pay to which she was not entitled to be deposited into her bank account, classified as payroll advances.
She then adjusted the ledgers to cover up the advances by reclassifying the amounts as utilities, maintenance and similar items. She also falsified the Mark Twain House's bank statements to hide the advances, authorities said. Gregory used the Mark Twain House's check-writing system to write checks payable to herself and forged her supervisor's signatures on those checks, authorities said.
Scorn in Toronto, acclaim in Hamilton
Literary icon Margaret Atwood has accepted an invitation from Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina to tour the city’s newly renovated central library. The invitation is a tongue-in-cheek jab at the Rob Ford administration’s refusal to take closing libraries off Toronto’s list of potential cost-cutters.